with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning, friends. Hope everyone's taking care of themselves as best they can – sleeping, eating, hydrating, exercising and making “a plan for how to deal with this moment.” Feel free to reach out for tips, comments, or company. Thanks, as always, for waking up with us ♥️ 

The Campaign

WE'RE ALL IN THE #YANGGANG NOW: When Andrew Yang dropped out of the presidential race a month ago, he couldn't have possibly anticipated the centerpiece of his platform — universal basic income — would be the bipartisan solution that Republicans and Democrats in Washington are rallying behind amid the coronavirus crisis. 

“Certainly I would never hope that UBI gets adopted because of this terrible virus. But I will say it's somewhat surreal to suspend my presidential campaign in February and see it potentially implemented in March, Yang told us in an interview on Tuesday. 

He confirmed to Power Up that his team has been in touch with the White House to provide support for the implementation of the disbursements. 

“We are doing anything we can to help in terms of data and resources since we obviously have access to the studies that show that cash infusions like this make people stronger healthier, and mentally healthier, and more trusting of both their community and their government,” Yang told us. “So there are a lot of very positive impacts and we’re eager to help in a time a crisis.”

After Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) suggested sending every American a $1,000 check, bipartisan support for the idea swiftly emerged. During a news briefing Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed White House support for the direct cash assistance to Americans, although he did not specify a dollar amount. Democrats and Republicans also endorsed the cash infusion — part of a broader, massive package to stimulate the economy.

  • “That's one of the ideas we like,” Mnuchin told reporters. “I think it’s clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks,” he added.
  • “Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), with the support of several other Democratic senators, are pushing a measure to disburse $2,000 checks to everyone under a certain income threshold,” per our colleagues Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis. “Their plan would require the government to disburse checks for an additional $1,500 if the health and economic emergencies continue, followed by quarterly payments of $1,000 after that.”
  • Another Democratic proposal from Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) would provide $1,000 — $6,000 to everyone earning less than $65,000.
  • “We should send relief directly to American families most likely to be in need — those in the bottom and middle tax brackets — to pay for rent, groceries, child-care, and other necessary expenses, as well as to spend at local businesses that are hurting during this crisis,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote in a Medium post outlining his own cash assistance proposal.
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters the idea “has a lot more resonance with our members than does, for example, a payroll tax cut, simply because it can get dollars out there more quickly to meet the need in a more direct way … and it seems to be an area where there's some common ground with Democrats as well.” 
  • Trump backed away from a payroll tax cut as well on Tuesday: “Payroll tax is one way, but it does come over a period of months, many months,” Trump said. “And we want to do something much faster than that. So I think we have ways of getting money out pretty quickly and very accurately.”
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed the idea on Tuesday evening but called for “emergency $2,000 cash payments to every household in America every month for the duration of the crisis,” per his communications director Mike Casca

C.R. E. A. M.: Yang is perhaps the prominent advocate of UBI and popularized the idea that every American should receive $1,000 monthly from the federal government during his unorthodox candidacy. 

  • Yang recommended  $1,000 checks per adult and $500 per child — “and it needs to be regular,” Yang added. “We don't know when that's going to end so the right approach is to say $1,000 per month as this crisis continues. It needs to be regular and predictable so that people know that it's coming and breath easier.”
  • “If you look at the economic blackout that we are in the midst of and in all likelihood, it's just getting started — there are limited ways we can get resources into the hands of millions of American families to stay above the water line,” Yang told us. “What is the downside of getting money to people in your district? I mean you'll look like a hero — getting money in your hands in our darkest hour?”

The former tech executive added that there might very well be an appetite to implement UBI on a permanent basis once “people will find that it works and is very powerful and effective … but we are in crisis mode and need to get money into people's hands as quickly as possible.” 

The overall price tag of the economic stimulus package being hashed out by the White House and Congress currently stands at around $1 trillion dollars, Mnuchin told lawmakers, per our colleagues “making it one of the largest federal emergency fiscal packages ever assembled.” 

  • ⚠️: Mnuchin “also gave lawmakers a dire warning if they failed to act, saying the unemployment rate could spike to nearly 20 percent from the roughly 3.5 percent level it notched in February, according to three people familiar with his comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations,” Erica, Jeff and Mike report.
  • More from Mnuchin: “He told the senators that he believes the economic fallout from the coronavirus is potentially worse than the 2008 financial crisis,” per Bloomberg's Josh Wingrove, Saleha Mohsin, and Jennifer Jacobs. 
  • Other details: “In addition to direct cash payments, the White House wants the forthcoming legislation to include support for small businesses and aid for the airline industry, in addition to a range of other measures. To further try to stabilize the economy, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve took a step Tuesday to make it easier for companies to borrow money, while the White House gave more flexibility to taxpayers to delay payments they owe the Internal Revenue Service next month, for an additional 90 days.”
  • So far: “This month, Congress approved $8.3 billion in emergency spending for public health programs, and last week the House passed the package with paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, money for food stamps, free coronavirus testing and more,” per our colleagues.

Not reinventing the wheel: It's not the first time that cash has been doled out during a crisis — our colleague Heather Long reports this has been done by the government twice before. 

  • “During the Great Recession, the federal government sent about every adult a $300 to $600 check (plus $300 per child),” Heather reports. “The same thing happened in 2001, when the majority of Americans received a $300 check.”
  • “In the last recession, checks went out to pretty much everyone who wasn’t a millionaire and filed a U.S. tax return, including Social Security recipients. Americans earning at least some income but less than $75,000 got the full amount, while wealthier people got less. The payments were sent by a check in the mail or direct deposit into a bank account.”
  • “In the past, about two-thirds of the money was spent within the first six months of the checks going out, according to economic studies of the 2001 and 2008 stimulus efforts,” per our colleague. “Many studies have shown that bumping up food stamps, welfare and unemployment insurance during downturns provides an even larger economic boost for the same reason: These Americans are the most cash-strapped, and they tend to spend the money quickly. ”
Former vice president Joe Biden won the Arizona, Florida and Illinois 2020 Democratic presidential primaries on March 17. (The Washington Post)

Outside the Beltway

BIDEN ROMPS AGAIN: “Former vice president Joe Biden swept to decisive wins in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, extending his run of victories on a primary election day,” our colleagues Michael Scherer, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan report of “Super Tuesday III” that occurred amid a global pandemic.

The Democratic primary is effectively over: “The emphatic wins raised further questions about the viability of the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). It set Biden, who began the day leading the contest by more than 100 delegates, on a clear course to a first-ballot victory at the Democratic National Convention in July barring a seismic shift in the race’s dynamics,” our colleagues write.

Biden's rout in Florida just made the math that much harder for Sanders: “It wasn’t a surprise that he won, but yet again he won by even bigger margins than some polls showed and was able to rack up big-time delegates because of it,” our colleague Aaron Blake reports. As of last night, Sanders needed about 6 in 10 remaining delegates to win.

  •  Sanders didn't even carry a single county in the Sunshine State:

Voters Florida, Arizona and Illinois braved unprecedented conditions: “Voters in Chicago confronted shuttered precincts, missing poll workers and confused officials struggling to administer an election during a public health crisis, a chaotic situation that voting advocates said created barriers for those trying to participate in the state’s Democratic presidential primary,” our colleagues Elise Viebeck, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Mark Guarino report.

  • In Ohio, some voters still showed up, even though their election was delayed until June: The state postponed its primary citing a health emergency after a local judge thwarted Gov. Mike DeWine's (R) efforts to postpone the election. The Ohio Democratic Party is now asking its state Supreme Court to intervene to ensure that eligible voters would have ‘an adequate alternative means of voting, Isaac reports.
  • DNC chair wants states to hold their primaries on time: Tom Perez “urged states to make vote-by-mail available to all registered voters. He also recommended the expansion of no-excuse absentee voting, ‘whereby a voter can either drop a ballot off at convenient locations or drop it in the mail,’” our colleagues Michael Scherer and Felicia Sonmez report.
In a March 17 livestream, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) discussed economic stimulus for coronavirus, rather than the primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. (Bernie Sanders)

THE PRESSURE MOUNTS ON SANDERS: “With upcoming primaries likely to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats increasingly worry that [Biden], who leads the race by a comfortable margin, might not be able to fully turn his focus to Trump before late summer if Sanders stays in,” our colleague Sean Sullivan reports.

  • The conversation inside the campaign: “One Sanders campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly, said that the changing nature of the competition — no more in-person events in the near future, and perhaps no more primaries — could be an important factor,” our colleague writes. “Sanders might be freed up to advance his cause outside the traditional pressures of the horse race, should he opt for staying in, the official said.”
  • Missing a major moment: “There is private concern that Sunday’s debate did not do enough to cause a major shift in the race, as some had hoped.”

The decision will be made by Sanders and his wife, Jane,: They are “taking input from advisers but making the call on their own,” our colleague writes. “Many Democrats are waiting anxiously to see what Sanders says on Wednesday about the future of the race, if anything.”

  • During an address Tuesday night, Sanders didn't mention the race at all: "[He focused] exclusively on the coronavirus crisis. He outlined proposals to address the pandemic, including empowering Medicare to cover all medical bills during the crisis.”
  • But don't assume the crisis makes an exit more likely: “Some Sanders allies speculate privately that the coronavirus crisis might make it more likely that Sanders stays in the race. As a longtime advocate of creating a Medicare-for-all system in which the government is the sole provider of health insurance, Sanders has said the pandemic shows precisely why universal health ­care needs to be enacted swiftly.”

LIPINSKI BECOMES FIRST INCUMBENT TO LOSE IN 2020: “Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the last antiabortion Democrats in Congress, lost his bid for renomination to a ninth term to a more liberal challenger, business executive and activist Marie Newman,” our colleague Mike DeBonis reports.

The primary was closely watched nationally and was a rematch from 2018: “The race had been closely watched as a test of whether a socially conservative Democrat could maintain support among the party’s base in a solid blue seat — and whether the dwindling number of Democratic lawmakers opposing abortion would be further culled by primary voters,” our colleague writes. 

  • Like so many things, the race was upended by the coronavirus with both candidates canceling their election night parties and urging supporters to vote by mail.
  • Though the AP called the race, Lipinski has yet to concede:“It is very close,” a post on his campaign's Facebook account reads. “We may have to wait overnight or into the morning for the final vote count.”

The People

DEATH TOLL TOPS 100: “Of the first 100 reported fatalities, many people appear to have had underlying health conditions, making it harder for their bodies to fight off covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Some had diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension or pulmonary ailments,” our colleagues Reis Thebault, Abigail Hauslohner and Jacqueline Dupree report.

The Post has tracked every known U.S. death: “Nearly all — about 85 percent — were older than 60, and about 45 percent were older than 80. It’s unclear how some of them contracted the disease, but more than a third were living in residential care facilities when they became ill,” our colleagues write.

  • Key quote: “I see that as the ‘canary in a coal mine’ situation,” Fred Buckner, an attending physician at the University of Washington Medical Center told our colleagues of the scale of the outbreak at a nursing home in Washington state. “I suspect it’s going to be taking off in other locations just like it is in the Seattle area. There’s no reason not to think that. Obviously, that means more deaths.”

Cases are now in every single state and the District: West Virginia was last state without a reported case, but announced its first patient Tuesday.

At The White House

TRUMP SLOW IN ANSWERING PLEAS FOR HELP: Everything from hospital ships and Veterans Affairs Department surplus of beds to the Pentagon have yet to be fully tapped as the president and his administration struggle to bring the whole weight of the federal government to bear against the coronavirus, the New York Times’s Eric Lipton, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Helene Cooper report.

This lag comes despite requests from governors around the country: “New York pleaded for help from the Army Corps of Engineers to quickly build hospitals. Oregon’s governor repeatedly pressed the Department of Health and Human Services for hundreds of thousands of respirators, gowns and gloves, face shields or goggles,” the Times reports.

  • More details on DOD’s delay: “Senior Pentagon officials say they are ready to assist in any way that is ordered, but they also caution that much of the military’s emergency medical care is designed for combat trauma or natural disasters, and not mass quarantine for infections.”
  • Even FEMA is awaiting orders: “FEMA officials said the Department of Health and Human Services remains in charge of the federal response, and it too is waiting for orders from the agency before it moves to ramp up assistance.”

Things do appear to be progressing: “Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on … that the Pentagon will make available to the Department of Health and Human Services up to 5 million N95 masks, which can be used to help protect health workers and vulnerable people against the virus. The first 1 million, he said, would be available immediately,” the Times reports.

  • “The Pentagon is also making available 2,000 ventilators for hospitals, a number that would likely fall far short of the expected need.”